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Norm entrepreneurship and diffusion ‘from below’ in international organisations: How the competent performance of vulnerability generates benefits for small states

Norm entrepreneurship and diffusion ‘from below’ in international organisations: How the competent performance of vulnerability generates benefits for small states
Norm entrepreneurship and diffusion ‘from below’ in international organisations: How the competent performance of vulnerability generates benefits for small states
For decades, the world’s smallest states—the structurally weakest members of the multilateral system—have been considered incapable of influencing international organisations (IOs). So, why has the label small state risen to prominence over the last two decades and become institutionalised as a formal grouping in multiple IOs? Drawing on more than 80 in-depth interviews, we explain the rise of Small Island Developing States in the United Nations system, the expansion of their agenda to the Small and Vulnerable Economies group at the World Trade Organization, and then to other IOs. The adoption of the labels is evidence of small state norm diffusion. We identify the competent performance of vulnerability within multilateral settings as the key to explaining this norm emergence and diffusion. The lesson is that diffusion ‘from below’ is not always driven by a desire to increase rank. In this case small states have gained benefits by maintaining a lowly position in a hierarchy in which large is stronger than small.
0260-2105
647-668
Corbett, Jack
ad651655-ac70-4072-a36f-92165e296ce2
Xu, Yi-Chong
d9359fb8-492c-4eaf-b328-644673aa9080
Weller, Patrick
218a5cf0-575d-4126-bcac-584a03892d75
Corbett, Jack
ad651655-ac70-4072-a36f-92165e296ce2
Xu, Yi-Chong
d9359fb8-492c-4eaf-b328-644673aa9080
Weller, Patrick
218a5cf0-575d-4126-bcac-584a03892d75

Corbett, Jack, Xu, Yi-Chong and Weller, Patrick (2019) Norm entrepreneurship and diffusion ‘from below’ in international organisations: How the competent performance of vulnerability generates benefits for small states. Review of International Studies, 45 (4), 647-668. (doi:10.1017/S0260210519000068).

Record type: Article

Abstract

For decades, the world’s smallest states—the structurally weakest members of the multilateral system—have been considered incapable of influencing international organisations (IOs). So, why has the label small state risen to prominence over the last two decades and become institutionalised as a formal grouping in multiple IOs? Drawing on more than 80 in-depth interviews, we explain the rise of Small Island Developing States in the United Nations system, the expansion of their agenda to the Small and Vulnerable Economies group at the World Trade Organization, and then to other IOs. The adoption of the labels is evidence of small state norm diffusion. We identify the competent performance of vulnerability within multilateral settings as the key to explaining this norm emergence and diffusion. The lesson is that diffusion ‘from below’ is not always driven by a desire to increase rank. In this case small states have gained benefits by maintaining a lowly position in a hierarchy in which large is stronger than small.

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Norm Entrepreneurship and Diffusion REVISED JAN CLEAN - Accepted Manuscript
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Accepted/In Press date: 27 January 2019
e-pub ahead of print date: 22 March 2019
Published date: October 2019

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 429585
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/429585
ISSN: 0260-2105
PURE UUID: 5e282af9-ae8c-4700-ba4a-9f7bf3c8dd15
ORCID for Jack Corbett: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-2005-7162

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Date deposited: 29 Mar 2019 17:30
Last modified: 07 Oct 2020 02:08

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